Sorry, Emma Watson, but HeForShe Is Rotten for Men

Until feminism recognizes discrimination against men, the movement for gender equality will be incomplete.

By Cathy Young • • September 26, 2014

“I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated

Emma Watson

Emma Watson

to me,” said Emma Watson at a UN Women speech in September. “Men– I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender Equality is your issue, too.”

“Gender equality is your issue too.” That was the message to men from Emma Watson, Harry Potter star and now United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador, in her widely hailed U.N. speech earlier this week announcing a new feminist campaign with a “formal invitation” to male allies to join. Noting that men suffer from sexism in their own ways, Watson asked, “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?” Truer words were never spoken. Too bad they are belied by the campaign itself, which is called “HeForShe” and asks men to pledge to “take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls” but says nothing about problems affecting men and boys.

Watson clearly believes that feminism — which, she stressed, is about equality and not bashing men — will also solve men’s problems. But, unfortunately, feminism in its present form has too often ignored sexist biases against males, and sometimes has actively contributed to them. Until that changes, the movement for gender equality will be incomplete.

Take one of the men’s issues Watson mentioned in her speech: seeing her divorced father’s role as a parent “valued less by society” than her mother’s. It is true that in the 1970s and 1980s, feminist challenges to discriminatory, sex-specific laws helped end formal preferences for mothers in child custody matters. But as fathers began to fight against more covert anti-male biases in the court system, most feminists sided with mothers.

There are plenty of other examples. The women’s movement has fought, rightly, for more societal attention to domestic abuse and sexual violence. But male victims of these crimes still tend to get short shrift, from the media and activists alike. Despite several recent high-profile recent sexual assault cases in which the victims were teenage girls, disturbing cases in which boys were victimized — by other boys or by girls — have received far less publicity and sparked little outrage. Experiments have shown that while people are quick to intervene when a man in a staged public quarrel becomes physically abusive to his girlfriend, reactions to a similar situation with the genders reversed mostly range from indifference to amusement or even sympathy for the woman. To a large extent, as feminists sometimes point out, these attitudes stem from traditional gender norms which treat victimhood, especially at a woman’s hands, as unmanly. But today’s mainstream feminism, which regards sexual assault and domestic violence as byproducts of male power over women, tends to reinforce rather than challenge such double standards.

Just in the past few days, many feminist commentators have taken great umbrage at suggestions that soccer star Hope Solo, currently facing charges for assaulting her sister and teenage nephew, deserves similar censure to football player Ray Rice, who was caught on video striking his fiancée. Their argument boils down to the assertion that violence by men toward their female partners should be singled out because it’s a bigger problem than female violence toward family members. Meanwhile, in Watson’s native England, activists from women’s organizations recently blamed the shortage of services for abused women on efforts to accommodate abused men (despite the fact that, as Guardian columnist and blogger Ally Fogg demonstrated, even the lowest estimates of the prevalence of domestic violence against men suggest that male victims are far less likely than women to get help).

Watson deserves credit for wanting to end the idea that “fighting for women’s rights [is] synonymous with man-hating.” But she cannot do that if she treats such notions only as unfair stereotypes. How about addressing this message to feminists who complain about being “asked to modify our language so we don’t hurt men’s feelings” when talking about misogyny — for instance, not to generalize about all men as oppressors? Or to those who argue that “Kill all men” mugs and “I bathe in male tears” T-shirts are a great way to celebrate women’s empowerment and separate the “cool dudes” who get the joke from the “dumb bros”? Or to those who accuse a feminist woman of “victim-blaming” for defending her son against a sexual assault accusation — even one of which he is eventually cleared?

Men must, indeed, “feel welcome to participate in the conversation” about gender issues. But very few will do so if that “conversation” amounts to being told to “shut up and listen” while women talk about the horrible things men do to women, and being labeled a misogynist for daring to point out that bad things happen to men too and that women are not always innocent victims in gender conflicts. A real conversation must let men talk not only about feminist-approved topics such as gender stereotypes that keep them from expressing their feelings, but about more controversial concerns: wrongful accusations of rape; sexual harassment policies that selectively penalize men for innocuous banter; lack of options to avoid unwanted parenthood once conception has occurred. Such a conversation would also acknowledge that pressures on men to be successful come not only from “the patriarchy” but, often, from women as well. And it would include an honest discussion of parenthood, including many women’s reluctance to give up or share the primary caregiver role.

It goes without saying that these are “First World problems.” In far too many countries around the world, women still lack basic rights and patriarchy remains very real (though it is worth noting that even in those places, men and boys often have to deal with gender-specific hardships, from forced recruitment into war to mass violence that singles out males). But in the industrial democracies of North America and Europe, the revolution in women’s rights over the past century has been a stunning success — and, while there is still work to be done, it must include the other side of that revolution.* Not “he for she,” but “She and he for us.”

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

*To understand more about why we need the other side of the revolution, see:

“The Doctrinaire Institute for Women’s Policy Research: A Comprehensive Look at Gender Equality”


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8 Responses to Sorry, Emma Watson, but HeForShe Is Rotten for Men

  1. Jack Strawb says:

    The women’s movement has fought, rightly, for more societal attention to domestic abuse and sexual violence.
    Indeed, the women’s movement has actively fought against acknowledging, for example, that women abuse their children more often than men; that women instigate domestic violence more often than men; that violence in lesbian domestic partnerships occurs no less often than violence occurs in heterosexual domestic partnerships, reminding us that when men are removed from the equation, violence does not diminish in the least.

    Until the problem is even acknowledged, I will have to put my efforts other than into HeForShe. How about, PeopleForPeople ?


    • Both women’s groups and the liberal media are reluctant to paint women as parties to violence and abuse — a fact I’ve noted for years.

      Thanks for the info and links. You’ve helped educate my readers. For that I’m grateful.


  2. Jack Strawb says:

    As regards women instigating domestic violence more often than men, see


  3. Glenn Hefley says:

    If Ms. Young could listen, without thinking about what she was going to complain about, she might have even heard that speech. And I find it unclear how the fact that some women abuse their children, is not only irrelevant to other women being abused by men, but actually somehow negates their injury – and we complain about their logic.

    I do know one thing which is primary and certain… this isn’t working.

    I’ve read several of these posts and yes, many of the items and facts, which you bring up are absolutely correct. But you act like these points have never seen the light of day before. A woman goes into court and sues her boss for wage discrimination (five thousand in Wisconsin alone) — do you really believe that the facts you bring up in your post on that topic were not brought to bear inside that courtroom? Seriously? No one ever thought that “Hey, I do the same job as Jim, and Jim makes $3k more than I do — and I’m a man!” — and that thought was not brought up in court?

    Emma in her speech brings up the same topics you do, pushes not for hate, but for equality — not “More” but equal . And you attempt to bring her down with this foolish inflammatory article which gets smaller minded the further you go. Why? Emma is asking for everything you propose to want.

    Points of logic which are true but irrelevant do not negate the equal rights of a entire gender. In fact, no logic negates the right of equality. They live longer.. so? I mean, you are expecting to be paid more for a days work because you will only live to 78? You only worked for a day. Why am I paying you against a retirement? Is there a certain amount of money you are entitled to for a life time? So, that’s how we decide on wages?

    Being a man is more dangerous… um.. yes it is.. because of other men mostly. .

    “Parties to Violence” is such an amazingly twisted prospect. Part of me, the writer in me, loves it. It is great.. and meaningless. They are not talking about the beating or the violence but the actions afterward.

    I’m sure you were keeping up with that Canadian girl who was gang raped and photoed while it happened who later committed suicide. Very violent, yes. The photos were beyond contempt and monstrous… I mean.. who the F does that? — and then he shows them off in class? Posts them to the Internet? This is a deranged person. Male or Female, that is derangment. If you want true non-sexist mentality, the deranged are your people. really. They see only objects in shoes. That the girl killed herself is also tragic, but is an issue that takes thought and consideration as to fault. I agree there. Most women would not like to hear me say that but, it is the truth. Intent is a factor. It has to be, and as soon as the emotional cloud passes they will agree.

    No jail time at all?

    That is not protection. That is not giving the message that the country, the law, gives a crap about women being raped. And, no one asks to be gang raped with they are fifteen, photographed and displayed on the Internet. Don’t even go there. She was fifteen.

    That is what women are talking about If that was a singular incident, you might have something to talk about, but it is not. It is across the board in the United States. I’m surprised to see Canada appears to have the same issue. The number of rapists who actually spend time in prison is miniscule. There is a reason for this low rate of prison terms for rapists. Even those convicted will spend no or very little time in prison. It cost more to put them there. They are high risk, high maintenance, they incite violence which risks guards and other inmates. They are not tagged as ‘violent” so they don’t go into high-security. They are not tagged for solitude. To take in a murderer is roughly 2/3s of the cost of a rapist for the prison and the prisons get less from the state for the rapist. So they back charge. The state hates this because it is now even more than paying the high-security, which they can’t do anyway– it bloats their budget and makes them look bad at elections.

    So, women are taken out of the equation, and the accountants step in. No more rapists in prison.

    How about that? Women’s prisons aren’t as full, and the females who rape tend to be a hassle but not as great. Women don’t react to another woman who has raped a man, like men react to rapists in prison. Call that sexist if you will, i have nothing to return on that one. That’s the way it is.

    So yes, there are women rapist, there are women abusers, women tend to be three times more violent during a violent crimes then men are (they freak out and just start mauling) … none of which is relevant to the issue of women being put aside as victims of violence.

    And none of that changes anything. This cherry picking pointing hate creating separatist mentality is creating exactly what it is — separation. .This, right here is the problem. It is creating what you propose to want ended.

    Do you honestly believe that if a woman read your posts, she will say, “oh, I never thought of it like that. I’ll just drop all of this an go bake a pie” .. No. She thinks exactly what you do when you read Ms or Cosmopolitan. or some of those rabid extremist out there.

    I’ve only spent this much time and thought because you sound like you honestly want this crap to end That you are reaching with reason and facts to show that the level of equality does not warrant the hellfire being thrown from the radical feminists. I agree with you. It doesn’t. Not even close. That shirt thing? Way out of bounds. That was ISIS logic. You wear the wrong thing and offend me, well then you get stoned. Those were not feminists, they were criminals. No one has the Right not to be Offended. No one. That crap has to stop too. . but this, here, isn’t working. I think you know that. I think you’ve been in this long enough to see that it is getting worse, not better.

    This video… watch it again. She has an answer. She’s pointing right at it. You may not be able to see it right away because it is not radical, or inflammatory. She is not dictating anything.

    Then, send me a message. We’ll talk. Maybe together we’ll actually do something that means something.

    Go a head and remove the comment, but keep it.


  4. Rose says:

    If you have critiques on the modern feminist movement that’s fair, but why drag Emma into this? Nothing she said had to do with some of the points you mentioned. (Such as lack of male victim help). Is your journalist career really failing that bad, you have to drag much more classy people into the dirt? Pathetic.


  5. Rose says:

    In your article you mention how Emma needs to address the notion that man-hating within the feminist community is more than an unfair stereotype. First of all your points to back this up are embarrassingly weak. You point out a phrase on t-shirts and mugs, and expect anyone to take that as serious proof and a valid argument. And second of all it’s literally a t-shirt. What exactly do you expect her to do. You cry and throw fits over a women in power who’s spreading an important message just because she can’t control every feminists behavior. That’s pretty sad. Besides what statistics do you even have to prove that this is even an important enough problem for Emma to address as more than unfair stereotypes. Not every feminist is like that so why should we demean and insult a group of women that (mostly) strive for positive change for both genders, in this way.


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